New knife set!
Lucky Me - time to Register!
I am thinking William Sonoma for kitchen goods and was checking out these knives:
Wüsthof Classic Ikon 10-Piece Knife Block Set
What do you guys think?
Also looking for some steak knives.
Anyone have any experience with these?
Wusthof Classic Hollow Ground Steak Knife Set
Hi Cowboy is the one of the most knowledgeable person on this website. I think it is correct to have a big picture or big road map as cowboy suggested. All expensive knives eventually get dull and then you have to decide what to do from there. Unattended expensive knives are no better than cheap knives. The question you have to ask yourself is that do you prefer knives which are easy to sharp but do not hold an edge or knives which hold an edge but difficult to sharp. I would say if you like smaller, sharper, nimble knives, then goes with Japanese knives. They are tougher to sharp but if you intend to let someone else to sharp them for you, then it is better to anyway because you won't have to send them out as frequent. If you like heavier, softer and easy to sharp knives, then consider German knives, like Wusthof and Henckels. Although I would also suggest you to consider American Dexter-Russell which is also easy to sharp and are cheaper. The problem is that it is difficult to find Dexter-Russell in stores.
One last thing to reiterate: please don't worry about getting a huge set of knives. Most people do not use more than 4-5 knives and certainly do not need more than 3. I would rather start with a better quality and smaller set of knives, then a large average quality of knives. Here is one reason: you can always expand your knife set and it will be fun.
Disclaimer: I don't work for W-S but I do work at one of their competitors and deal with bridal registries frequently.
First off, Congratulations!
You've been given a lot of good information here regarding knives in general. Before replying, I'll state that myself I am a fan of Japanese steel as well. I have some Shun classics I like a lot as well as a Masahiro, a Mac, a Global, and a new Kikuichi. I have a ton of knives. More than I need - including Wusthof, henckles, Sabatier and Messermeisser as well.
You're right for your registry you don't want to go to too many places. You also want to register where it's easy for your guests to access the registry, either in person or on line.
You've been given the impression here that Wusthofs are inferior knives. I'd just like to point out there isn't anything inferior about the German knives. They're different than the Japanese and while I personally prefer Japanese steel at this point myself, you won't go wrong with looking at German knives as well.
Don't pick your knives out from internet advice or from a website picture. Go into a store and HOLD the knives. Play with them. Cut some stuff up. Talk to a knowledgeable salesperson about care and maintenance. German steel, while not holding the edge as long, is generally easier for a home cook to maintain and take care of. Talk to the salesperson about the type of cooking you do and decide which knives you really need. (never break down your own proteins? No real need for a boning knife then). How do you intend to maintain your knives(yourself at home, through a professional? do you want to invest the time to learn using a stone?) Talk to the salesperson about maintenance and what you're willing to do in that regard and let them help you identify which steels and edge designs might work well for you.
Again, most importantly get out there and play with the knives and hold them. I had a customer come in last week ready to buy a Shun because that's what someone told her to buy. I went ahead and had her go through all my assortment of chef's knives. We took quite a bit of time as she went back and forth between them. She kept thinkign she should buy the Shun because that's what she was told to buy. But she kept coming back to the Global because that's what she liked the feel of. In the end, she bought two Globals(chef and paring). She came in over the weekend for somethign else adn told me how much she loved the new knives and how glad she was she'd taken the time to try them out.
Some of your wedding guests will be looking for a set on the registry. it's a common gift. If you want a set, register for one. Personally, like others here, I prefer to buy open stock myself as well. But if you've never had a set of knives and have always wanted one, go ahead and register for one. But, you think you wont' end up using most of the knives in the set and really don't want one, register for a block(or magnet, or drawer tray) and which knives you let and let your guests put a set together for you from you list.
With any of the knives suggested here, including the Ikons you started with, you're getting a quality knife. Decide the one you like the feel of and go from there! Have fun in the process and good luck!
Yes, of course!! We are planning on going to WS next week to try out everything before deciding. I just thought it a good idea to do some research on the subject so I know what I am dealing with when I get there, and have a little more knowledge on the subject. I happened to also speak with a friend of mine who was an ex-chef today, and he basically said - one word - Shun. So, they are coming highly recommended to me, but I will definitely try them out and make sure they feel good in the hand, etc. Hopefully the sales person there will be as nice as you and take the time to help!!
Thanks so much for all the advise, I'm not going till next week so please feel free to chime in - I'd love to hear everyone's opinions :)
I'll try to answer a few of your questions. But i would like to clear up a few small points. RGC1982 made a lot of good points (especially, that Shuns are problematic if you have both lefties and righties doing the cooking who both use pinch grips), but a little correction -- gyutos and pettys are western style knives made using japanese techniques and materials. A gytuo is only a Japanese-made french-shaped (as opposed to German-shaped like wusthofs or shuns) chef's knife. Global and Mac both make gyutos, even though they don't call them that. A petty is only a japanese-made utility knife. They require no particular adjustments on the part of the user.
*Warning- Knife nerd section*
They are not single beveled. The edges are sometimes asymetrical, but all but the most extreme (like 90/10 which i've never even seen in a gyuto) should still be ambidextrous. I am left handed and use a 70-30 righty hiromoto -- you can't even feel the difference. It's done that way to thin the edge and improve performance, not to cater to righys, and you can reset the edge if you want anyway without too much trouble. The common Japanese style knives that are single bevel are the usuba, deba, and yanagiba. They do require special technique to use and sharpen.
*End knife nerd section*
There is no reason not to recommend any of the lower-maintenance gyutos (stainless, non-brittle like tojiro DP, misono UX10, etc) to anyone interested in buying good knives except that they are not available at one-stop kitchen stores that you can register at. They are generally excellent, high-performance products that anyone can use. If you see them offered where you wind up registering, by all means put em on the registry.
Next, ziggylu suggests going to the store, feeling the knives out, talking to salespeople, and making your decision that way. While going to the store and trying some knives out couldn't hurt, there are a few problems with that approach that ziggy doesn't mention. One is that you will tend to get whatever is closest to what you already have because that is what feels 'right' to you. When I switched from a German chefs knife to a Gyuto, it probably took me about a week to get used to it and then months more to take full advantage of its virtues. But I'm glad I did, and now a gyuto is what feels 'right' to me.
Another problem is that you will tend to pick whatever knife is kept sharpest at the store, not the knife that is the sharpest when you get it.
Another problem is that you get no feel whatsoever for edge retention or sharpenability of a knife from a trip to the store.
And lastly, most kitchen store employees (korin aside) don't know especially much about knives. (No offense, ziggy - you may be the exception.) And they almost never know anything much about sharpening techniques and options, which I think is far more important (if you couldn't already tell). You'll get a lot of mediocre knife advice at most kitchen supply stores. So yes, go if you find the time away from planning for the wedding - but go forewarned.
Finally, on to some of lavendula's questions. The bamboo cutting board should be fine - probably. For cutting boards, you want a surface that's soft enough not to damage a knife's edge but hard enough that the edge doesn't cut into the surface very far. It's also nice if the board can be resurfaced (with sandpaper) as eventually you'll need to either do that or throw the board out. I personally use a hardwood end grain board, as that's the standard recommendation for knife-friendly cutting boards. They are sanitary, as long as you follow sanitary practice, contrary to what you may have heard. They look nice too. Williams Sonoma offers several. I have heard that bamboo is slightly harder on knives, but I have no experience with it. Even if what I heard is true, we're talking minor differences mostly noticeable to professionals -its not like those terrible glass boards- so I wouldn't sweat it that much. I'd also recommend keeping around a cheap plastic board for raw poultry and pork. And as if you needed even more suggestions, I've heard that sani-tuff rubber boards are very nice, fast, knife-friendly, and resurfaceable rubber boards - they're getting a lot of raving reviews.
As far as the Laguiole knives go, I also have no experience with them. But i can tell you that the whole 'micro-serrations never need sharpening' line is marketing spin. More accurately, they never CAN be sharpened. Oh, they'll go dull (either that or they come dull), though because they're serrated, they'll take longer to go dull than straight edge steak knives, and once they are dull, they'll still cut better than dull straight edge knives. But since there's no way to sharpen them, you'll either bear it and cut at your food with pretty but dull serrated knives or just throw them out and buy new ones. As there isn't any really practical way to sharpen serrated knives, I never buy nice ones- i just buy cheap ones and throw em away once they dull. There's probably nothing wrong with the Laguiole knives, but just keep in mind that you're getting essentially disposable knives. Still, because they look nice and are the right price, they'd probably be my first choice from the william sonoma site. I'd love to recommend straight edge steak knives, but unless you have wooden plates, the maintenance would be too much of a hassle. I personally have two straight edge hankotsus I use as steak knives and maintain well. http://korin.com/Styles/Boning-KnifeHankotsu
They are fantastic. But i only bust them out when trying to impress. Usually, I use cheap crappy serrated knives.
As the sets at William Sonoma go, either of the two you listed are good. I lean towards the Kaji because even the 7 piece set has a couple things you probably wont use much (the shears and utility knife) and one you probably shouldn't use (the steel). On the other hand, the Kaji also has a utility knife in there. So just pick whatever appeals to you more - they're both quite good.
If you decide to pick individual knives:
I personally really dislike the ken onion knife- it doesn't feel right, the edge is too curved for my tastes, and I like being able to use the spine of a knife to push things around and scrape off a board - can't do that with a ken onion. I also think they are overpriced. But I also sharpen knives as something between a hobby and a side job, and I have yet to meet someone who owns one and is the least bit unhappy with it. So they must be doing something right.
As far as paring knives go -- the Shun classic paring knife design is actually far more beloved among knife nerds than their chef's knife. They are very nice paring knives and I give them my full recommendation.
I'd only recommend a meat cleaver if you actually find yourself (or your fiance) hacking apart bones - large bones, as you can just keep around the largest knife you have right now for hacking poultry and small fish bones. It doesn't sound like that's the case, but even if it is, I wouldn't spend much money on that knife as it's essentially a small axe with only one purpose. A bread knife is more useful. A chinese cleaver (which functions as a chef's knife) or japanese nakiri (which is veggie-specific) would be more fun. I mean, the only knives that every cook should have are some kind of chef's knife and some kind of paring knife. Everything else depends on what you cook. If you're vegetarian, i doubt you'll need a meat cleaver.
And finally, you mentioned that you like the idea of taking your knives to a professional. Good. That's the best thing you can do shy of learning to use waterstones or buying an edgepro (sort of elaborate but effective home sharpening setup). You also asked if the sharpening steel will be enough. Easy answer - no. It doesn't sharpen at all - it realigns the edge, which is actually much more useful for softer German style knives than Japanese knives anyway. In fact, grooved steels like the kind in that set are generally sort of bad for the knives. They cause chips in the edge - big visible ones if used poorly and small microscopic ones if used correctly. Smooth steels are okay if used properly, but i much prefer stropping Japanese knives as a way to maintain them between sharpenings. Sounds scary, I know, but you can buy strops cheaply, and the technique to strop correctly is actually easier and more forgiving than the technique to steal correctly. http://www.japanwoodworker.com/produc...
If you do go with professional sharpening, you can essentially just pick whatever knives appeal to you most since a professional should be able to sharpen any mainstream knife without difficulty. The shun classics or kaji are good picks from the williams sonoma store. I also like the Globals due to their straighter and thinner edge, although the steal they use is not as good. If you start looking somewhere else (sur la table, for example), let us know.
Good post cowboyardee.
That is why I recommended the Tojiro even though they have nearly doubled in price since they were endorsed by Chef Heston Blumenthal and the Togiharu. Both are solid Japanese knives and you aren't paying for name. Nothing against Shun but for the money there are many really top notch Japanese knives in the same price range. The Tojiro and Togiharu are less than half and the Togis are about a fourth of the price of a Shun.
The reason I recommend the EdgePro is that a novice can put on a fantastic edge, that is better than most professionals will do on their first try. It is so worth it to put some of your investment in sharpening. You can then sharpen as needed which should be often. No you won't be grinding way your edge prematurely as so little is taken off if done correctly. Professionals that use grinding wheels will grind away a lot of your edge. I just don't recommend it. This should be something you do at home as needed. It is just too easy to do. Whetstones can be inexpensive but do require more skill and practice to do a good job. I have been using high end Japanese whetstones for a couple of years now but recently used my EdgePro to sharpen my gyuto. I was humbled. It did such a great job and far more even than my freehand work. I'm telling you a novice can do this nearly as well it's that easy. I will say with confidence that once you pull the trigger on an EdgePro you will not have a moment of buyers remorse unless you are a sharpening fanatic who wants to do it all freehand.
If I had to choose I would rather have less expensive knives and be able to sharpen at home than have an expensive knife that I had to send out to sharpen. $600 on a set of knives is so much money. You just don't have to spend that much to have fantastic knives that will thrill you every time you use them. The biggest part of the thrill is performance not just looks, at least for me. I don't need all my knives to look the same. Damascus patterns look pretty but serve no function. I do need my knives to perform like a star when using them. They are tools not museum art.
I have the full Apex set. At the time they didn't have so many options for the lesser sets. Only $50 difference from the most expensive to the least. The stones I use the most are the 220/320 and 600. They didn't have the 1000 when I purchased. I do use my 180 for quick reprofiling and on occasion the 120 for reprofiling the edge. Reprofiling is changing the angle. Remember that these grit numbers do not correspond to the same numbers in Japanese whetstones or sandpaper.
Thanks for pointing that out, because I am currently learning to use a 1000/6000 King combo stone, and the 1000 seems to be the only thing that starts to put an edge back on the old knives that I am practicing on (old Gerbers). I doubt that I would get into re-profiing, but it became really clear to me that the Wusthoff pull-through sharpener I have doesn't do anything to the Shuns and really doesn't seem to help on the old Gerbers either (they need serious work).
They currently have a Pro and an Apex. Supposedly, the Pro let's you adjust the hight for when you are sharpening for hours. Since there is little chance that I will ever devote hours to this job, I think the regular Apex is fine. I'll probably go for the best one -- it doesn't really cost that much when compared to the cost of a good knife.
BTW -- I am toying with trying out a Glestain gyoto, mostly because I want to see if the dimples are really that effective when slicing potatoes. Other people have given it a great review on this board. I'm going to run it by a cutlery forum (tougher crowd) to see what they say before I spend the money.
Go for the Apex. The Pro is a more solid instrument that allows you to do scissors and bevels 10 degree or less. You can do very low angles on the Apex but you need a riser block to lift the blade up a tad. I just put 12 degree bevels on my Tojiro gyuto without using a riser block. Go for it RGC you will not be disappointed
Even at the 220 grit stone your knife should push cut the length of a piece of copy paper and float hairs off your arm once you remove the burr. When I get down to the 600 grit stone and then stroped it it still sliced through the paper but with minimal sound. One of the differences in sharpness you will note is the sound. The sharper the edge the less sound it makes. Copy paper is a common item to test sharpness. Another thing is that the sharper the edge the further away from the point where you are holding the paper can you push cut. When it's really sharp you can hold the top of the paper at one corner and push cut repeatedly from the other corner. Over and over and over again. confetti covering the floor.
Ahh the thrill!
The Glestain is interesting. I personally don't have any experience except with a German santoku which I gave to my daughter for her appt in college. I just didn't feel like it did too much.
The tough crowd must be the foodieforum or knifeforum.
BTW here is a grit comparison chart via KF
Another vote for the EdgePro. I've got the same setup as sd97 and it's pretty amazing. I have limited hand-eye coordination and even less patience, but even I can put a good edge on a knife in no time. There's a learning curve, but it's very short.
As to the Glestain, all I can say is that I want one. I sharpened a friends' long slicer a while back. (When you have an EdgePro, your friends and acquaintences let you play with their knives, even the really expensive ones.) Carving a rib roast, you could read the newspaper through the slices of beef. The steel is hard enought to take and hold a wicked sharp edge, and the dimples really do work.
go with Japanese knives, tojiro or togiharu for budget. no others can compete. We are talking about a culture where the ultimate weapon was a long knife, and much craft and resources was dedicated to it.
To get a idea of the scope of knowledge behind read the relatively thorogh reviews here. http://www.knifeforums.com/forums/sho...
Not that german steel gets not so hot reviews, also mac and shun don't sharpen well. Don't pay for the name of those knives, pay for the performance.
I don't really find the shun classics hard to sharpen. The shun elites/kaji are a bitch though (sg2 powdered steel, very hard, super abrasion resistant).
Haven't tried sharpening any Macs, but i can't see any reason they wouldn't sharpen well - their CrMoV steel could be like globals where they're more abrasion resistant than hard (which would mean that they sharpen like a slightly harder knife but don't hold an edge as well as that same harder knife), but that's still not too bad. I'm speculating though, now.
I have a 1000/6000 waterstone as well. Although the 1000 is extremely useful when compared to 6000 for initial sharpening. I find I only need the 6000 for putting an edge back on. I mean. When the knives first start to become dull, they only require a small touch-up, so 6000 is enough. My experience.
Cowboyardee has the right approach, and if I had to do it all over again (oh, after all the years I have been married, I actually have), I would probably invest in Shuns as a starter set. There are a few things you need to know about Shuns:
1 -- Chances are you will NEVER send them back to the manufacturer, so you should consider buying a whetsone (water stone) from Korin. Get a combination 1000/6000 stone and spend time on You Tube learning to sharpen. Practice on cheap, old knives before you ruin the edge on your Shuns inadvertently. Or -- take them to a place that sharpens Japanese knives if you can get to one when the time comes;
2 -- Shun Classics are "D" handled and, therefore, are intended for right handed users. You can special order for left handed users, but if you have to share -- this is a bad line for you to buy. The Kaji/Elite lines (WS sells the Kaji exclusively, which is essentially an Elite blade with a different handle) are ambidextrous. The steel is harder, but they are sharp, Western-styled Japanese knives and keep their edge for a long time if you use a wood or bamboo board.
3 - Ken Onion is for larger hands, it seems, and I don't like they way they feel in my hands. You may love them, so you and your honey should both give them a try if you are both going to use them.
4 - Bolsterless Japanese style knives like Shuns and true Japanese style knives like Misonos may take some getting used to in order to hold correctly. You need a pinch grip, but you can cut yourself on the bottom of the blade if you have poor knife skills. Go slowly at first.
5 - I still swear by my Henckels's Twin Pro 8" Chef's knife, or my Wusthof Classic cleaver for getting through chicken bones, ribs, etc. You do not want to use a beautiful and expensive Shun Elite chef's knife to hack through bones. It is thin and may chip.
6 -- Save the true Japenese gyutos, pettys, etc. for when you have more experience. Those are true Japanese style knives in that they are beveled only on one edge (most of them) and can only be used by right handed users unless special ordered. Some are beveled on both edges, but 80-20, not 50-50, making it still impossible to switch between right and left handed users.
7 - Make up your own set: 8" chefs, 5 inch serrated utility, 3-4 inch parer, 9 inch slicer, boning knife (if you tend to do things like take the breasts off a bone-in turkey breast before roasting), minimum 8" serrated bread knife and a sharpening steel. Some people will tell you that you don't need the boning knife or the bread knife. I disagree completely on the bread knife, and will give you a "maybe" on the boning knife, depending upon the kind of prep work you do in your kitchen. If you are comfortable, move up to a ten in chef's to get started, and I would suggest one of your Chef's knives be German, like those Wusthofs. I actually use both the 8" German and the 10" Shun Kaji chef's knives. They are very different, and that is good. The German knives are sturdier and you will reach for them when you need to separate spare ribs. Store on a magnetic knife rack, and invest in several boards. I use plastic for raw meat, which can be put in the dishwasher, maple and bamboo. I love my bamboo cutting board, and people are all over the map on board preference. The point is that you need more than one for raw meat, cooked meat carving and vegetables.
BTW, you can substitute a 7" Santoku for a Chef's -- it is a personal preference.
Hope this helps.
Wow, I have a lot to think about! I kinda agree that we don't need that many knives. We already have a pretty decent bread knife (an older wustoff). I think what we need is a good chef's knife (or 2) and paring knife - and I have never in my life had a knife I could cut into a tomato with without ruining it - get me one of those please - which one?!!
We have a magnetic rack that we have our knives on now, we do need a nices new cutting board. We have the plastic and then one older cheap bamboo one that I was never that impressed with. If you guys have a good suggestion please let me know :)
We are both right handed, so Shuns should work for us.
So, nobody likes Wustoff anymore?
A little background - I am vegetarian, so no bones for me. My hunny eats meat, but doesn't prepare it often, other than on the BBQ. I would say our slicing and dicing is usually into veggies, fruits, & breads - and occasionally fish or meat.
Oh, RGC, I just saw #7. Make up my own set. I must say I am a little attached to having a "matching set" since I never have, but I also see the appeal of having different types of knives that are better at different things.
This issue with registering is that you are really only supposed to pick 3 stores - so I can't be sending people to a million different stores for each knife. I thought William Sonoma would carry a better quality line of products, but if you all know of a better "one stop shop" then by all means, please let me know!
1)The Shun Classic 7 piece knife set from WS - $449.95
Our set includes a 3 1/2” paring knife, 6” utility knife, 9” bread knife, 8” hollow-ground chef’s knife, kitchen shears, a honing steel and a bamboo storage block with slots for 11 items.
2) Shun Kaji 3 piece knife set. I am assuming these are better knives 3 for: $429.95
this professional-quality three-piece set includes an 8" chef's knife, a 6" serrated utility knife and 3.5" paring knife
I definitely like the way these look better!
3) OK, they sell a million different sets. Take a look:
Other option -
Getting 1 chefs knife from Wustoff, 1 chefs knife from Shun (maybe that Onion one, does anyone like that?) and then which pairing knife, which meat cleaver?
Thanks so much for your help!
The Classic and the Kaji (I have some of both) are all beautiful. The handles will feel quite different in your hands. When I first tried them out at WS, I immediately went for the Classic because it fit like a glove. I got my first Kaji when I wanted a ten inch chef's knife. It seemed balanced in my hand then, but the handle is quite different. It is actually the most similar to the Wusthof Ikon in shape (BTW -- I've toyed with adding an Ikon or two to my collection, but I wouldn't buy that whole set).
One thing to remember, those Ken Onions are actually all off-set, meaning that the blade is lower than on other knives relative to the handle. Also, the grips are for specific fingers, and if your hands are not the right size, the knife feels weird to hold because you will not be gripping in the appropriate finger slots. I wanted these when I saw them too, but they were clearly not for me once I held them. A pinch grip was impossible for me. Fun fact: This was the knife set that Chef Robert Irvine couldn't wait to give away to his helpers at the end of one of his Dinner Impossible shows. I guess he didn't like them either.
The Kajis have harder blades, which mean a sharp edge longer, but harder to sharpen if you do it yourself. They are much more expensive, and all three of these knives in this small set are useful. For what you are cutting, the Kajis will also go throught dense fruits and veggies like watermelon and winter squash better.
I would probably go for the Kaji because the blades are better and these are really good selections that you would probably make individually if you were buying on your own. I also like the serrated utility knife -- which is going to be that tomato knife that you have always wanted. You can always buy a block, steel and scissors if you need them.
If you stick with black handles, they will blend if using different brands.
I swear by my Wusthof Classic cleaver.
BTW -- I recently purchased some Laguiole steak knives, which are micro-serrated and never need sharpening (supposedly). They come in different prices and materials because they are made by different manufactuers. WS sells them too.
That is a lot of money. Please do some more research.
I would rather have a basic Japanese gyuto like the Togiharu moly and maybe a petty for around $130 combined or Tojiro gyuto and petty, plus an EdgePro Apex sharpener http://www.edgeproinc.com/productsape... at $155-105 than that whole set of Wusthofs. You will be able to filet peppers and float your blade into a tomato to make a clean fine dice among other things. Your knife skills will soar above your expectations.
With the expensive set you still need to sharpen and the steel just won't cut it for long.
Short answer - I'd recommend you keep looking.
Much longer answer:
Wusthof Ikons are nice- they work pretty well, they feel good and sturdy, they look good- but there are some problems. I don't like recommending big sets of knives, for starters. In that 10 piece set, the chefs knife and santoku perform essentially the same function. So do the two paring knives. The utility knife will either never be used or will be the only knife you use, depending on how you cook. The sheers are mostly useful if your chefs knife is dull or you need to cut paper and can't find your regular scissors. And the bread knife is too short. A big set like that is only really useful if a lot of different people with a lot of different preferences are cooking in your kitchen. So unless there are specific reasons that wusthofs are ideal for you, I think there are better options for the money.
Probably one of the biggest factors in what knives/set you should get is how you intend to sharpen them (you will sharpen them, right? Otherwise you will have a $600 set of knives that in 8 months will be about as useful as what you could get for a buck fifty at a yard sale). I'll explain. Wusthof Ikons are fairly nice German knives made out of comparatively soft steel, set at fairly obtuse edges. This means that if you absolutely swear by electric or roller sharpeners like one of the Chefs Choice models, Wusthofs are pretty ideal because some of their otherwise better competitors don't work well with electric or roller sharpeners (wrong angle for the edge and their steel is too hard). They are also easier to sharpen on oil stones (the type you can buy cheaply at a hardware store) if that's what you intend to do, due to their slightly softer steel. Also note that Wusthofs take abuse SLIGHTLY better than some of the other knives I'm about to recommend - that might be important.
If you don't already have any plans on how to sharpen your knives, I really recommend the Shun knives from the same website. They are made out of a harder steel and are more acutely angled. And you can send them back to the factory (at your expense) and they will resharpen them for free. For life. That can be a hassle in that you have to pay for shipping and go a week or two without your knives, but it's still waaaaay better than letting a nice knife set go to waste by neglecting it. The Shuns have a couple other advantages. They perform better because they are sharper and thinner. They hold an edge longer because their steel is harder and tougher. I think they look better too, but others disagree. They cost slightly more per knife, but a seven or eight piece set is cheaper than the Wusthofs. And you get better knives without anything useless thrown in. They have a few lines and all of them are good. The classics are very good. The elites and kaji are even better (though even harder to sharpen on your own). I think Shun's ken onion knives are awkward, but other people love em.
If you plan on taking your knives to a professional sharpener, then I still recommend the Shuns (for the reasons above) or I'd also recommend looking into Macs. Not quite as nice looking as the Shuns, but i prefer the way they shape their blades - less curve, which is more useful for precise cutting. They come wicked sharp. Globals also fit the bill here for roughly the same reasons.
On the off chance... if you plan on doing your own sharpening with waterstones (the more expensive Japanese sort), then by all means start looking off the beaten track. There are some glorious Japanese knifemakers out there if you wander away from williams-sonoma, often selling at roughly the same prices as the more well-known makers. That's all I'll say on the matter unless you're interested.
As for steak knives - the some thing goes double. Because they come into contact with ceramic plates and bone so often, non-serrated steak knives will be completely dull and useless in no time. So either buy serrated steak knives (or wooden plates) or make sure you have a method of sharpening in mind when buying steak knives. Same logic applies as with your set of knives.
That was probably too much information, but hopefully it was helpful.
Wow, thank you, super helpful!
I used to take our knives to the famers market to get sharpened. We would drop them off and pick them up at the end of about an hour and we were good to go. Now in NYC, I have no idea or plan as to how to sharpen my knives. I saw that the set came with a steel sharpener, so maybe I thought that would be enough? My dad used to have an electric sharpener. I actually like the idea of sending them in and having a professional do it.
In that case, I suppose you would suggest the Shuns?
You seem to know a lot on the subject...are there any steak knives that you think are best?
If you're in NYC, you would be remiss not to check out Korin before you spend a lot of money on a set. You really don't need a lot of knives. One great chef's knife, a less-expensive serrated bread knife and a good quality paring knife should be all you really need. Maybe a decent slicer. If I was starting out, I'd seriously consider the MAC mth-80 as a go-to chef's knife.
I second going to Korin. They have a big selection of knives and a knowledgable staff that can help you find the perfect knife for your needs. They offer knife sharpening workshops twice a week and sell a knife sharpening dvd. Or you can just have the master knife sharpener take care of it for you in about 20 minutes. I got the best knife I have ever owned from that store. Highly recommend Korin.